Monday, 22 April 2013

Be'Lakor - Of Breath And Bone

Be'lakor are a band I’ve been meaning to get round to listening to for a while now. Mainly because every single music recommendation service I have signed up for has recommended them. With the discovery of their latest album, Of Breath And Bone, on the money-pit that is Bandcamp I thought it about time I gave it a whirl.

Cut from the same cloth as melodeath legends Insomnium and recent favourites Omnium Gatherum, Be'lakor have presented a beautifully crafted melodic death album to the world while eschewing a name that ends in “-um”. Stylistically sitting about halfway between the previously mentioned bands, Be'lakor incorporate thundering rhythms and lyrical dexterity with intricate melody and a healthy helping of blast beats and crunchy riffage.

Lyrically the songs on Of Breath And Bone are one of two sorts. The earlier tracks are cryptic but clear enough to infer the disquieting gist, and the latter are fully fledged stories of loss and despair, as is fitting for the genre. I have quite enjoyed sitting with the lyrics and deciphering the songs as I listen. Some I still have no clue about, but even the imagery evoked by the short choruses is packed with mystery and gothic charm.

Even the songs with complete stories can take some deciphering. Absit Omen, for instance, seems for all the world cryptic and impenetrable on first listen, but a couple of goes in and with the lyrics handy there is an “Oooh!” moment when it clicks. In Parting is another brilliant track telling a heavy hitting story of loss and ignorance that gets all the way to the crushing finale before eliciting a wide-eyed “holy shit” from this listener.

The nature of the tales, the delicately balance melody and heaviness, the morality plays and the tales if helplessness are all captured, somewhat whimsically perhaps, in the cover art. A slightly modified version of Gabriel Ferrier’s Chaperon Rouge insinuates an unseen, unsettling extra depth to the tales within.

On the whole I am very glad I gave this album a listen. Now I need to go back and acquire the band’s first two albums which, from what I hear on the Internet, are just as good. I think Be'lakor’s only flaw is that they are in a saturated market. In the last 5 years the number of melodeath bands has risen immensely and it becomes hard to stand out from the crowd. It’s so easy for the music to disappear into the noise. To become “just another beautifully crafted melodic death album.” Omnium Gatherum’s latest failed to inspire as its predecessor, New World Shadows, had done, not because it was bad, but because it was nothing new. Thankfully for Be'lakor the melodeath ingredients have been added in just the right quantities and mixed in just the right way to make something worthy of remark.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Artwork inspired by Northern Oak's Monuments

Artist Jack Holliday has been toiling away at a series of paintings inspired by Monuments, the latest album from Northern Oak. They are, not to put too fine a point on it, breathtaking. Head over to the Northern Oak gallery page or Jack Holliday's own blog post to see these magnificent works. I particularly like In These Hills. It captures everything I love about standing on top of the Peak District and admiring the views, all the while risking been blown clean off the top.

If someone were to decide that it might be a nice idea to release a collector's set of postcards of these paintings, I'd definitely buy them!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Dark Tranquillity get all doomy

Hot on the heels of yesterday's Amon Amarth flavoured excitement comes today's news that Dark Tranquillity have released a preview of the new album Construct. The new song, titled For Broken Words, is a doomy sort of a song. A departure from recent DT records and the band's signature style. The band's spokesperson is quoted to have said "This is one of the heaviest and most brooding tracks from "Construct", so it's a good candidate for the online premiere song position. More music from the album will be presented shortly."

Have a listen here:

Amon Amarth reveal that new album will be about Vikings

Amon Amarth have caused uproar in the online metal community by releasing a free track from their new album. And it's the title track, too! Deceiver Of The Gods will be properly released eventually when they get around to it, possibly June. In the meantime, have a listen to this:

BOTY 2012

The more eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that, at the end of 2012, I completely failed to post a list of the top 10 of the year. But fret not, because I did make a list. I just did nothing with it. 2012 felt like a very long year indeed. Unlike 2011, which had a few standout releases that hogged the limelight, 2012 has had many excellent releases over its course. Many I never even got round to listening to, so this list may end up being outdated as I pick up on the rest of 2012s releases throughout 2013!

Top 10 of 2012

Cormorant - Dwellings

The first album I bought in 2012, and one I still listen to. In terms of genre it's pretty unplaceable. Progressive black metal with folky and hard rock roots is how they are self-billed. Either way, the songs are well written, with intent and meaning, and are complex without becoming confusing. A great album with great album art to boot.

Woods of Ypres - Woods 5: Grey Skies And Electric Light

Miserable, yet catchy, yet sad, yet not. It's like all the bits of Type O Negative you remember liking, without the bits you don't. Some have said it's not as good as Wood 4 (The Green Album), but I'm not convinced. I think, on balance, I like them both equally but for different reasons.

In Mourning - Weight Of Oceans

It's hard to put into words what's so great about this album, except that it's everything I love about progressive death metal mixed with everything I love about a bit of the old melodeath. The opening track, Colossus Colliding, is worth just putting on repeat all by itself, but don't forget the rest of the album!

Krokmitën - Alpha-Beta

Something of an art project from Canadian experimental death metallers Krokmitën, complete with a massive, psychaedelic lyric video and, just for kicks, a follow up of a tech death version of Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BMV565).

Mortad - The Myth Of Purity

Political, female-fronted melodeath from Iran. Great riffs, great songwriting, great message, and a sound familiar enough to melodeath fans (obvious comparisons to Arch Enemy incoming...) that it's easy to just get into and enjoy.

Aquilus - Griseus

Do you like black metal? Do you like classical music? Do you like strange infusions where seemingly incompatible musical styles are smushed together in a manner that makes all your synapses do a happy dance in your brain? Of course you do, and this is what will do it for you.

A Forest Of Stars - A Shadowplay For Yesterdays

An album I looked forward to since seeing the beautiful Gatherer Of The Pure video way back in July 2012. A great mix of different bits and bobs apparently hung together in a sort of steam-punky way to produce a very interesting and utterly unique listening experience.

Sabaton - Carolus Rex

What can be said about Sabaton? They do metal. About war. And it's all very bombastic. Very, very bombastic. Enough to have you marching around your lounge and singing very loudly and attempting to roll your Rs nearly as well as vocalist Joakim Brodén. It's camp and silly and awesome and hooks into your brain and won't let go.

Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage

The latest outing from French metal pioneers Gojira received mixed reactions from their fanbase, many preferring previous records. Whether this album actually succeeds in topping their previous outings or not, it doesn't change the fact that it's really very good and well deserving a place on this year's BOTY list.

Threshold - March Of Progress

The first album from Threshold since the return of Damien Wilson way back in 2007. In the intervening time Andrew "Mac" McDermott sadly died of kidney failure and the band's label InsideOut put out a variety of compilations to keep fans interested. And this album is what has finally popped out. Any good? Hell yes. It's everything a Threshold, or general prog metal, fan could have wished for.

And that's it for 2012's top 10. A very good year. 2013 is starting somewhat more slowly, but has some big releases in the pipeline and a whole Internet full of smaller bands putting out amazing material all the time. Hopefully I'll catch enough of it to find myself in the same position next December, with so much good stuff I can't filter the best from the merely amazing.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Holy Flurking Schnit!

So I seem to have been on something of an impromptu hiatus. Not planned, or even particularly expected, but necessary. Life has been hectic, tiring and mind-futzing all at once. Ever had that form of writer's block that lets you have a flurry of mental activity, but sitting in front of a blank page results in an equally blank mind? Yeah, that.

But has life been dull and without good things? No, not really. Quieter, perhaps, with fewer gigs and a slower intake of new music, but still with plenty to enjoy. Just not with the brainpower to put that into words.

One good thing that has happened is the transformation of Bandcamp from a basic hosting site for musicians to a more social environment. This includes things like personal collections, the ability to "follow" and a recommendations system. Of course, that also means that the amount of cool new music I am finding has increased massively and my current wishlist runs to many, many pounds of downloadable goodness. My personal bandcamp collection is available for viewing and following if you so desire. Feel free to marvel at my majestic profile photo.

I have some commentary, review or other words about a number of things that have come out, will come out, or have recently been revealed to me. I will post those in short order. Ish. I might even post a few more photos, if I get to any gigs this year. I've come up with a few loosely defined sections to post in, including a bit about freebies I find, a bit about newsworthy things and a bit about stuff I have found and want but have yet to acquire. Make a bit of structure around here.

And so, here I am, back again for a while until my brain gives up again. Or not, if it doesn't. Who knows?

Friday, 14 December 2012

Epica & Stream Of Passion @ Corporation

Way back in the mists of time, some tickets were purchased to an upcoming Epica gig with an as yet unnamed support. These were extra special VIP tickets, affording us certain extras such as meeting the band, getting out of the cold early, and getting a spot right up front. Having a spot right up front was a bonus for me because I had taken my camera along. Marvellous.

Stream Of Passion

I have never seen Stream Of Passion before, but I nearly have. Back in 2007 I was to see them at the Boardwalk in Sheffield, but visa issues meant the gig was cancelled. We didn't find out until we got there, so we went back to the pub. I thought no more of it. But here they were! And very good they were too.


After seeing Epica supported by ReVamp last year, we knew what a good show they put on. They didn't disappoint. Althought it may seem controversial, they definitely sound much better live than on studio albums.

And they were very nice, if a little cold, bundled up inside Corp in winter coats.